Using Action Research to Improve Teaching and Learning

Educator engages in an action-research project that draws on a question from classroom data, and is viewed through current research and (re)examined through the systematic analysis of data to yield responses that improve professional practice and student learning outcomes.
Made by University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

About this Micro-credential

Note: This micro-credential is currently only open to educators in the Milwaukee pilot program

Key Method

The educator selects an educational problem based on classroom data to generate a research question. The educator then engages in a literature review of the problem, and develops and implements a research design that will yield data, which, when analyzed, offers responses to the question and improves classroom practice.

Method Components

Components of Action Research to Improve Teaching and Learning

  • Understand the influence of epistemological and ideological beliefs.
  • Acknowledge the ethical rules surrounding research with human subjects.
  • Identify and justify an educational problem and research question using data generated from your classroom practice.
  • Locate and engage with the research-based literature relevant to the research question.
  • Construct an appropriate research design for the identified question.
  • Conduct a research study that involves the systematic generation and analysis of data from at least three sources.
  • Offer findings from the study with a clear evidentiary audit trail.
  • Produce a clearly written report that details the research process and shares the study’s findings and implications for classroom practice.
  • Participate in, and demonstrate a sense of the value of, a collaborative learning community.

Suggested Implementation

  1. Examine the nature of action research – educational problems/topics, researchable questions, aligned data-generating mechanisms.
  2. Explore philosophies of educational research, with a specific focus on action research.
  3. Identify an educational problem of interest.
  4. Articulate and hone a research question.
  5. Structure a literature review.
  6. Develop an appropriate teacher action research project.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

High levels of student learning rest on a teacher’s ability to teach effectively, with full knowledge of the standards of success expected of students at each grade level [1]. Although this key relationship is codified in local, state, and national education policies, recent efforts have intensified the definition of teacher effectiveness, the tools by which it is measured, and the standards of success. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the current demand that school districts across the country identify effective teachers using student learning measures and link professional growth to increases in student achievement.

Action research is one method for marking and charting professional growth linked to student learning. In Wisconsin, action research offers a means of identifying and providing evidence of Professional Practice Goals (PPGs) and Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), as required by your Educator Effectiveness Plan.

[1] See for example, Banks et al. (2005); L. Darling-Hammond (2010); Hirsch, Koppich, & Knapp (2001); Monk (1994); Sanders & Rivers (1996); Zumwalt & Craig (2005).

  • Anderman, L., C. Andrezejewski, and J. Allen. “How Do Teachers Support Students’ Motivation and Learning in Their Classrooms?” Teachers College Record, 113.5 (2011): 969–1003.
  • Bredo, E. (2006). “Philosophies of Educational Research.” Handbook of Complementary Methods in Education Research. Green, J., G. Camilli, and P. Elmore (Eds.). Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association. 3-31.
  • Fraenkel, J. and N. Wallen. “The Research Problem.” How to Design and Evaluate Research in Education. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. 26-36.
  • Gall, M., J. Gall, and W. Borg.. “Conducting and Writing Your Own Literature Review.” Applying Educational Research: How to Read, Do, and Use Research to Solve Problems of Practice, 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2009. 49-60.
  • Haller, E. J. and P.F. Kleine. “Finding and Using Research to Address Educational Problems.” Using Educational Research: a School Administrator's Guide. New York: Longman, 2001. 52-82.
  • Schreiber, J. and K. Asner-Self. “Introduction to Research Design.” Educational Research. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011: 2-9.
  • Solorzano, R. W.. “High Stakes Testing: Issues, Implications, and Remedies for English Language Learners.” Review of Educational Research 78:2 (2008): 260-329. doi:10.3102/0034654308317845


Learning Opportunities

  • Session 1 (Introductory Meeting)
    Examine the nature of action research: educational problems/topics, researchable questions, aligned data-generating mechanisms.
  • Session 2 (Online PLC)
    Explore philosophies of educational research.
    • View the TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” where Novelist Chimamanda Adichie shares about the dangers of holding one point of view:
    • Then read and discuss Bredo (2006) and Schreiber & Asner-Self (2011) (see Supporting Research).
  • Session 3a (F2F) [October]
    Identify an educational problem of interest and articulate and hone a research question by reading and discussing Haller & Kleine (2001, pp. 52-60); Fraenkel & Wallen (2009, pp. 26-36); and Pine (2009, pp. 234-247) (see Supporting Research).
  • Session 3b (F2F) [October]
    Structure a literature review by
    • Watching the video “The Literature Review,” which details what is involved in the literature review process.
    • Then read and discuss Gall et al. (2010, Chapter 3, pp. 49-60); Kennedy (2007); Solorzano (2008); and Pine (2009, pp. 248-250) (see Supporting Research).
  • Session 4 (Online)
    Develop an appropriate teacher action research project by reading and discussing Anderman et al. (2011); Ingersoll & Preda (2010); Pine (2009, 177-254); and Watson (2011).
  • Session 5 (F2F) [November]
    Analyze data and write research reports by reading and discussing Pine (2009, pp.254-315).

*Note: The “Learning Opportunities” are from the Milwaukee Master Teaching Program. If you would like to take advantage of that learning opportunity and are not part of the program, please check back later on this micro-credential for video recordings of the sessions.

Additional Resources

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Part 1 and a “Yes” for each artifact submitted for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

Response may be written or provided through a video.

  • What was the impact of interrogating your epistemological and ideological beliefs on your research?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

To earn this micro-credential, please submit the following:

  • A research prospectus that includes:
    • The circumstances of the educational problem and research question
    • A review of the literature
    • A graphic illustration of how the study will take place
    • Description of the generation and analysis of data, which was drawn from at least three sources.
  • A voice-over PowerPoint, video, or poster presentation that illustrates the systematic generation and analysis of classroom data from at least three sources and highlights the study’s findings and implications for practice.
  • A clearly written report that details the research process in a transparent manner, that is, open to public scrutiny.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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